Powdered gloves used for everything from surgery to patient exams, have been now banned, a result that Robert Zura, MD, Professor and Chair of Orthopaedics at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine has worked to achieve since his undergraduate days. The Food and Drug Administration published the final rule of the ban, which also includes absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon’s glove, on December 19, 2016.
As an undergrad, Zura was part of a team led by his mentor, Dr. Richard Edlich, conducting research on the hazards of powder in wounds. Their findings, which were published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, documented that in contaminated wounds, cornstarch enhanced the growth of bacteria and elicited exaggerated inflammatory responses as measured by wound sclerosis, or hardening.
“Using powdered medical gloves poses a risk to both patients and clinicians,” notes Zura, who also holds the Robert D’Ambrosia Chair of Orthopaedics at LSU Health. “In patients, aerosolization is a risk. During the donning of powdered gloves, minute particles fill the air. After donning, particles can continue to fall away from the gloves as the surgery proceeds. In addition, powdered gloves have been identified as the largest single contributor to latex aeroallergen levels in healthcare facilities. Powder also heightens latex sensitivity, which affects an estimated 8 – 12% of health care workers. Powder can delay wound healing and contribute to such post-operative complications as adhesions, infections and granulomas. The potential risks of powder to clinicians are clear as well: it contributes to compromised skin health and Irritant Contact Dermatitis (ICD), which causes dry, itchy and irritated skin.”
Dr. Richard Edlich’s research underpinned a decades-long effort to do away with the powdered gloves. Along with Edlich and others, Zura also co-authored citizen petitions to the FDA encouraging a ban, along with editorials, letters and reviews providing further evidence of their harm. These papers were published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine and Annals of Plastic Surgery.
“The FDA ban is the right thing to do to help make the operating room safer for patients and clinicians,” Zura concludes. “Though Dr. Edlich is not here today to witness it, the FDA’s action is a fitting tribute to the man who so tirelessly advocated and worked to eliminate powder. A mentor to many and a vigorous patient advocate, Dr. Edlich’s work and memory lives on as the industry now moves to a powder-free future.”
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